Prefabrication and Mechanisation

Magic of the Moment

Prefabrication is the creation of a pattern-store of high-level elements that are to be assembled with little or no alteration by the end-designer. The elements may or may not have implicit or explicit rules governing their assembly. Implicit rules include such things as having particular points on the exterior of an assembly to which other assemblies are designed to connect. Explicit rules are used to prevent possible but undesirable results.

The design of modular systems is common in vernacular architecture, and in mass-housing projects. In these situations, the economies of scale created by the modularised approach are thought to outweigh the perceived lack of "creativity" and "individuality" of the modules. Scales of modules range from whole "housing blocs" through "standard room layouts" through cupboards and fixtures designed to be mixed and matched.

The design of modules that can be assembled without a mechanistic, repetitive, trivial, feeling is a considerable talent. Designing "moments" that can be experienced in a large number of settings while still seeming fresh is not an easy task. Conversely, because the end-designer merely selects elements from the designed pattern-store, the creation of a project using modular components is often considered "below the station" of a designer. Creating this situation and supporting it, most modular systems are designed so a lay-person can easily script together the modules.

One of the major aesthetic benefits of standardisation and modularization is the creation of consistency in large projects. As with everything that increases consistency and comprehensibility, standardisation and modularisation can drop the complexity of the project below some people's complexity threshold, leading them to see the project as boring, trivial or meaningless.

Subdivision Design -- Pre-made designs and moments, standardised "collections" of houses. Elimination of the designer from the end-user interaction, pre-drawn plans with minor alterations.

Modular homes, (Ikea) consumer furniture and the like

Model building kits

Compositional exercises with elements which are detailed, but easily understood, music composition

Black-box computer-systems, the OO model

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Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
Reproduction for other than personal use prohibited without express written permission from the author.